How do we transition from a Strategy Brief to designing and building a website? The first step is a sitemap. The sitemap helps organize priorities and audiences defined in the Strategy Brief into something more concrete. Sitemaps are interactive tools used during the design process show a quick visualization of a website’s intended structure and page hierarchy. In our case, Digital Pulp provided the first three levels of pages with draft titles in order to approximate the top level navigation. The sitemap is the first step in defining the website’s planned structure, and we will test how the labels and their categories match up with user expectations (more on that below).
Wireframes flow from the sitemap—they serve to answer the question: given these pages, in this hierarchy, how should we present this content to the user? Wireframes are a blueprint of website components that demonstrate the relative priorities of each page’s information and functions. In our case there will be specific, detailed content on the page to validate the proposed content strategy and navigation. Wireframes allow us to get early feedback on the (non-visual) design elements before higher fidelity elements like images, colors, and branding are added. You can think of wireframes like building plans—it’s easier to relocate a bathroom when it’s on a blueprint than when construction is in progress. Similarly, it’s easier to reorganize and reconfigure components of our website when they’re in black and white then when development is underway.
With the sitemap and wireframes in hand, we’ll move to the next phase: User Testing. During user testing, our goal is to validate the information architecture defined in the sitemap and test language, section headings, and organization of site content defined in the wireframes. To do this, we will conduct about 15, hour-long sessions with people who are part of the website’s target audiences (students, staff, faculty, and alumni). We’ll open these sessions telling participants, “there are no right or wrong answers here – we want your honest opinions. If things are unclear or confusing, let us know. We’re not testing you, you’re testing our work.” Comments and feedback received during user testing will directly feed into next iterations of the sitemap and wireframes.
We are holding user testing sessions for our prototypes in early October. In order to build a diverse pool of potential testers for both the top tier redesign and other future Georgetown web experiences, we’re actively recruiting GU students, staff, faculty, parents, and friends. Please sign-up via our Google Form to be a tester and help us improve Georgetown website experiences.